A popular Malaysian rapper was arrested Sunday over a music video in which he allegedly insulted Islam because the video was partially filmed in a mosque and features audio of the Islamic call to prayer.
Namewee — real name Wee Meng Chee — will be held for four days and investigated for “defiling a place of worship with intention to insult religion,” according to the BBC. The 33-year-old rapper reportedly faces up to two years in prison over the charge.
The music video for Namewee’s “Oh My God,” first released in July, features the rapper singing and dancing in front of several houses of worship, including a church, a Buddhist temple and a mosque. The song also reportedly includes the words “Allah” and “Hallelujah.”
As a result of the repeated religious references in the song, the BBC reports that the rapper faced nearly a dozen complaints from local non-governmental organizations representing Malaysian Muslims.
The rapper was reportedly arrested at Kulala Lumpur International Airport while returning to the country from a trip abroad.
Namewee defended himself in a Facebook post on Monday, arguing that he wrote the song to “promote religious harmony.” The rapper added that he refused to hide out overseas to escape the charges because Malaysia is his “homeland.”
The Guardian notes that Malaysians generally practice a more moderate form of Islam. But a December 2015 report from the Brookings Institute found that extremist sentiment has been rising in the country for the past several years. Roughly 60 percent of Malaysia’s population of 31 million people are Sunni Muslims, according to the report.
Namewee has reportedly skirted controversy in his home country before. In 2007, the rapper caused outrage when he reportedly set one of his rap songs to the tune of the country’s national anthem, and substituted in lyrics that critics found offensive.
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